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India has strengthened its internal and external security to such an extent that a repeat of the events of 26/11 is almost impossible now, defence minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday, the 12th anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks.

Addressing the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit via video link, Singh said the attacks that held India’s financial capital to ransom forced a reworking of the national security strategy. No “self-respecting" country could forget such an assault on itself, the minister said.

During the 45-minute session, he also spoke of India’s ongoing military standoff with China, plans to achieve self-reliance in defence manufacturing, the recent Bihar polls, the West Bengal polls slated for 2021 and farmers’ protests.

He also spoke about the changed threat environment, with India having to deal with challenges in the real and virtual world.

“What was previously considered nature’s fury also needs to be viewed suspiciously," the minister said adding that the covid-19 pandemic had paralysed the world.

On terrorism emanating from Pakistan, he said India’s response to terrorism has undergone a nearly 360-degree turn and the country’s defence mechanism now includes not only investigation of terror activities internally but also externally. The minister said that India “was no longer a soft target for terrorists and a few of our neighbours may have to pay a heavy price for making terrorism a state policy".

“There has been a sea-change in the way we deal with terror attacks on our soil. Not only are we investigating within the country but we have also penetrated deep into neighbouring territory to wipe out terror camps in 2019 after the Pulwama attack," Singh said.

Noting that the 10 terrorists who launched the attack on Mumbai 12 years ago had come via sea, he said that India had put in place a three-tier security system consisting of the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Police to secure its coastline.

“It is now clear that terrorism by Pakistan will have a cost to it," he said, adding that India was focusing on disrupting funding to terrorist groups by Islamabad. For this, India was working through the Paris-based global money laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The FATF’s black list tag for Pakistan will prove to be the final nail in the coffin of state-sponsored terror, he said.

On India’s problems with its “other neighbour", Singh said that India and China have differences in perception about where the border lies. This was a reference to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

“Problems have arisen because the agreed protocols for patrolling have been ignored" by China, he said. India will not allow Chinese troops to take any unilateral steps to alter the LAC, he said, adding that the government had given troops the freedom to take action as they deem fit—a reference to a change in protocols allowing Indian troops to use weapons. India will not allow anyone to occupy an inch of its territory, he said.

About the current situation, he said Chinese and Indian troops were facing each other across the border, while talks at the military and diplomatic levels were going on to resolve tensions. “Let us see what the results will be," he said.

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